Don't let the cold exterior scare you off: Hunan Chef's inviting dishes will warm you up inside
The restaurant offers a range of what might be called signature dishes — dishes with "Hunan" in the name — among them Hunan chicken ($7.50). Here we found, along with chunks of boneless flesh, swaths of bok choy, button mushrooms, broccoli florets, carrot slivers, and whole dried red chilis. These last implied a sauce with some heat — Hunan being, along with Szechuan, among the spicier of China's regional cooking styles — and there was indeed a hint of heat in the marvelous, garlicky red sauce. This was the kind of sauce that left you wishing Chinese restaurants brought you a basket of bread so you'd have a means of sopping it up. An alternative to bread is to have the leftovers boxed up. Once you're in the privacy of your own home, you can do as you see fit.
Service was excellent. The serving of dishes was well-paced, empty plates were removed promptly, and water glasses never ran dry. I was reminded, as I so often am at Chinese restaurants, of the prep time involved in virtually every dish, the dicing, chopping, and shredding — an expense of human effort and energy that reduces cooking times and therefore the need for scarce fuel. As the child of an energy-hogging culture that burns fossil fuels to blow leaves from the sidewalk so the wind can blow them back again, I can't help but be impressed by this.
Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.;
Sun., 4–9 p.m.
525 Cortland, SF
Beer and wine